Crítica, Revista Hispanoamericana de Filosofía, Volume 26, number 76-77, abril/agosto 1994
Subjetividad y privacidad
Guillermo Hurtado
Instituto de Investigaciones Filosóficas
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Abstract: The traditional doctrine of the privacy of the mental describes our mental lives as corridors without doors or windows. According to this view a mental state is private if:

(1) one and only one person has direct access to that mental state, and

(2) that person is the authority with respect to the content and character of such a mental state (i.e., has an incorregible and infallible knowledge of it).

(2) has been rejected on the basis of externalist arguments concerning the nature of mental content. However, very few have put (1) into doubt. The purpose of this essay is to claim that (1) is not a necessary feature of our mental lives. Hence the traditional doctrine of the privacy of the mental must be rejected not only for being grounded on a false conception of mental content, but also for being grounded on a false conception of the nature of subjectivity. My argument is based on a Parfitian conception of persons and on a metaphysical distinction between persons and subjects of consciousness. I claim that if a momentary fusion of the streams of consciousness of two people is possible, the mental states that occur in that unified consciousness will be mental states of those two people —even if there is only one subject of consciousness involved. Hence, we can conclude that if two people can have the same mental state, they will also have the same direct access to that mental state. Finally, I suggest that the rejection of (1) —and hence of the view of mental life as a corridor— should be welcomed as liberating.

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